Maine has three dangerous mosquito-borne viruses active right now

By Julia Bayly, Bangor Daily News Staff

State agencies have identified new cases of two separate mosquito-borne viruses in southern Maine over the last two weeks in insects, mammals and birds.

New cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis — EEE — were confirmed in several flocks of emus and in multiple horses in Piscataquis, Penobscot, Somerset and Waldo counties.

 A West Nile Virus case was confirmed in a horse from York County. Mosquitos in Kennebec and Penobscot counties have been found carrying the EEE virus, according to a release from the Maine Center for Disease Control.

The Jamestown Canyon virus was found in a group of mosquitos from Wells in August.

This marks the first time West Nile virus has been found in mosquitos and an animal in Maine since 2018.

“Notably, this is the first year that the Maine CDC has identified all three mosquito-borne viruses in Maine in one year,” said Lindsay Hammes, spokesperson for the Maine CDC. It’s also the latest in the season that we’ve identified these viruses.”

Typically a cold, hard frost will kill the mosquitoes and bring an end to the virus season. But the state has not yet had an overnight hard frost this fall.

That means the risk of all three viruses remains around Maine and state health officials are currently receiving reports of other suspected cases. They are strongly urging residents and visitors to take precautions to protect themselves and livestock.

“Given that we’re seeing as much mosquito activity as we have, it’s critical that people remember that it’s not only horses, emus and other animals that can get [the viruses],” Hammes said.

Because people can be infected by a mosquito bite, the Maine CDC urges them to take steps when outside to protect themselves and their animals.

These measures include wearing long pants and long sleeves when you’re outside, wearing an EPA-approved repellent to prevent mosquito bites and draining standing sources of water to avoid providing mosquito-breeding habitats. 

Effective vaccines for both WNV and EEE are available for horses, so it’s recommended that if you have horses, ponies or other farm animals, you should reach out to your veterinarian and find out how to best protect them, too.

Many people infected with a mosquito-borne disease have no symptoms, according to the Maine CDC. Others experience fever and flu-like illness. Others can have more serious health issues including encephalitis, meningitis and death. If you experience any of these or have other concerns, call a healthcare provider.

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